As usual, I studied various recipes and I created a composite that produces a delicious hot Italian sausage. But here is where personal preferences become very important. Different folks want different degrees of hot. What I show below in the ingredient list creates an extremely hot sausage suitable only for those who truly love hot stuff. After the directions I discuss how to vary the ingredients to have anything from mildly hot to fairly hot, so that you can decide what you want.
The addition of the garlic makes this an interesting and tasty departure from the typical basic Italian sausage recipe, which lacks garlic as well as the red pepper flakes. The addition of the cayenne pepper turned this sausage into a superb, very hot Italian sausage, perfect for "HOT" aficionados.
I made this sausage and it is excellent. Try it and you will agree.
Trim the pork and cut it into 1 inch cubes, including the fat, and grind it through the fine (1/8") plate of your meat grinder. Then use your electric mixer with the beater attachment to finely blend the ground pork and ground fat for about three to five minutes on medium speed so that no fat pieces can be seen.
Put two tablespoons of the fennel into a one quart Ziploc® freezer bag. If you decided to use black peppercorns, put the tablespoon of them in the freezer bag. Crush the contents of the freezer bag using a kitchen mallet, first with the flat side and then with the side with indentations, until the fennel/peppercorns are no longer whole.
Put all the dry spices into a small bowl. Add the ice water and mix for about 30 seconds or until the salt is dissolved.
Pour the spice and water combination into the ground pork and fat mixture and mix thoroughly for at least 3 minutes. I use the beater attachment of my electric mixer and run it on medium speed for about three minutes to blend the spices into the ground pork.
Once the sausage is fully mixed, either stuff it into casings or make it into patties or bulk packages. This sausage should be refrigerated as soon as it is made. It can be kept in the refrigerator for 2-3 days or vacuum sealed and kept in the freezer for up to 3 months.
To create a mildly hot Italian sausage, eliminate the cayenne pepper and reduce the red pepper flakes from three tablespoons to two tablespoons. To create an average hot Italian sausage, simply eliminate the cayenne pepper and otherwise use the other listed ingredients. To create a yet hotter sausage, use one teaspoon of cayenne pepper, not one tablespoon. Any amount of cayenne pepper adds a notable amount of heat, so try using a small amount first.